Fifty-five colorful miniatures on golden grounds – and thus the wealthiest picture cycle ever seen in a high-medieval Gospel manuscript to date – plus eighty-one initials in gold, mostly anthropomorphic in character, set among colorful blossoms and scrollwork: these are the main features of decoration in the St Peter Pericopes. Dating from the mid-12th century, the volume is now in the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek of Munich (shelf-mark Clm 15903).
The Pericopes Book from St. Eretrund in Salzburg, a St. Peter Scriptorium manuscript
In scholarly literature, the volume is widely referred to as the “Perikopenbuch von St. Erentrud”, a name that goes back to the Benedictine convent of St Erentrud on the Salzburg Nonnberg.
An annotation from the late 13th or early 14th century on folio 104v confirms that the volume was kept in the holdings of this convent from this point on at the latest. Nevertheless, St Erentrud is neither the place where the Pericopes were made nor of their destination.
A Salzburgian provenance has however been established for the book, not only on textual grounds, such as the reference to St Rupert in a number of instances; St Rupert not only founded the metropolitan see of Salzburg and also served as the first bishop there, but is also venerated as the founder of two Benedictine abbeys, St Peter and St Erentrud.
The origin from an Austrian scriptorium may also be inferred from its art historic features, since the codex is closely related to a number of other manuscripts that are thought to be originating from Salzburg.
Out of the three scriptoria active in Salzburg around the 1150s (the scriptoria of the bishop‘s church, of the Petersfrauen and of St Peter), only one is considered to be relevant for the provenance of the Pericopes, based on stylistic, iconographic and textual grounds, namely the scriptorium of St Peter.
Eu-angelion – The Tidings of Joy in Both Pictures and Text
The book type known as Gospel Pericopes (or Pericope Sections) contains those excerpts from the gospels that were selected to be read on certain Sundays and feast days of the ecclesiastical year. Out of the seventy-one gospel extracts in the volume, no less than fifty-five are introduced by their own dedicated miniature.
The purpose of these miniatures goes well beyond a mere illustration of the text, or a simple repetition of themes using visual means; rather is the narrative horizon additionally widened and interpreted by this imagery.
This is perhaps best exemplified in the miniature of „Jesus among the doctors“: it shows the 12 year-old boy as a bearded adult man. This trick helped the artist to overcome the space/ time continuum and to reveal the future role of Christ as the savior of mankind. Similar pictorial solutions are found all over the manuscript.
They are part of the overall textual concept, invented to present Christ as the Lord‘s Anointed, the Redeemer and Messiah.
A Book of Silver and Gold
The 106 folios in the St Peter Pericopes display an iconographic and decorative wealth that is truly second to none, both in terms of quality and of quantity.
Out of the miniatures preceding the Christmas and Easter readings – the healing and resurrection miracles of Christ, the Marian and saints‘ feasts, and the feasts of the Invention and the Veneration of the Cross – more than half extend over a full page.
The wide rectangular frames with ornamented central panels flanked by golden and silver moldings surround the biblical scenes in the manner of panel paintings.
Precious gold leaf was used for the background foil in the larger figural scenes, created with intense, though off-color opaque paints. Some architectural elements and landscape features are supplied for better orientation. Graceful figures dominate the symmetric structure of the pictures.
Their lively mimicry and gazes from wide-open eyes symbolize the relationship between them and thus convey the narrative contents of the picture and its emotional expression at the same time.
Stylistic principles from Byzantine art and themes from Western models
The combination of stylistic principles from Byzantine art and themes from Western models, as well as the practice of modelling bodies by colour shading, bears evidence to the close relationship between our manuscript and earlier works from the scriptorium of St Peter. This relationship is, inter alia, particularly evident in the elaborate initial decoration.
Each pericope section begins with an initial that either appears as a singular letter, perhaps also as part of a group, or in the form of a ligature made up of the two letters introducing the incipit and the gospel excerpt itself.
The gilded body of the letter is surrounded by spiralling scrollwork, terminating in colorful buds and flower heads. In countless variations, the elements of the letter are replaced by mostly zoomorphic grotesques, thus lending the manuscript an amusing touch.
The Scriptorium of St. Peter in Salzburg
The Arch abbey St Peter in Salzburg was founded as a missionary convent in 696 by Rupert, Bishop of Worms, and is the oldest continually existing monastery in the German-speaking realm.
The scriptorium in the Benedictine abbey had flourished ever since the early Middle Ages, and given birth to unrivaled masterpieces in the late 11th, and to an even larger extent in the 12th century.
In a perfect symbiosis of stylistic elements inspired by Western – and, in particular, Bavarian – art, as well as of Byzantine-inspired forms that had found their way first to Venice and later to the Alps, the monks of St Peter developed their own characteristic style; it is among the most interesting trends that Romanesque manuscript art has to offer.
Together with the somewhat more recent Antiphonary from this honorable scriptorium, the St Peter Pericopes is surely among the highlights of medieval illumination.
Renaissance binding from the 2nd half of the 16th century, tooled with an ornamented roll and fillet border, 2 metal clasps
We have 1 facsimile edition of the manuscript "St. Peter Pericopes from St. Erentrud": Perikopenbuch aus St. Erentrud in Salzburg facsimile edition, published by Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA), 2016